Hearing officer speaks out about Russell Perea decision

Posted at: 11/12/2013 10:15 PM
By: Caleb James, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Imagine recommending that somebody keep their job, then losing your job because of it.

A hearing officer for the city of Albuquerque says that happened to him after he supported an APD officer who was fired.

On Tuesday, a judge ruled that cop should get his job back.

KOB Eyewitness News 4 spoke exclusively with the hearing officer who says the decision is "vindicating."    

His name is T. Zane Reeves.    

In 2011, Reeves was assigned to make a recommendation about APD officer Russell Perea's termination.    

Perea was the partner of former officer Levi Chavez.   

Reeves says that assignment changed the way he looks at a lot of things.    

"I became very angry," said Reeves.

Sometimes what makes us angriest is the hardest thing to give up on.

"It's one of those things in my life I know I'll feel the best about," said Reeves. "I reviewed all the evidence. To me it was very clear."

Reeves is a kind of judge. He contracts with companies across the southwest to resolve issues including employment disputes.

In 2011, he worked with APD, when the department wanted to fire officer Russell Perea.

The city said Perea lied about the Oct. 2007 night he was on patrol with officer Levi Chavez -- one night before Chavez's wife Tera was found dead.    

But after hearing the city's case and Perea's case, Reeves made a recommendation.

"It was not difficult," he said. 

Reeves' final decision didn't keep him up nights. He recommended Perea keep his job.

"I had a five member personnel board that agreed with everything I said, and everything I recommended," said Reeves.

But Reeves says it didn't seem to matter to the city.

"I think in their eagerness to portray Russell as an accomplice, they were willing to do anything," he said. "I would either withdraw my recommendations, or be fired."

Reeves says he was blackballed from cases involving city employees. Even a judge didn't think that was right.

"Basically said, that's ridiculous," he said     

Then Reeves says his city contract was cancelled.

Reeves says he never considered changing his recommendation about officer Perea  back then.

But now, a court is upholding the decision Reeves has stood behind for years.

"Even if he doesn't get his job back, and he gets tons of money, yeah, it's worth it," said Reeves.

Reeves says he predicts the city will offer Perea a settlement before offering him a job.

KOB reached out to APD for a statement Tuesday evening, but have not heard back.